Summary: Microsoft’s legal team keeps trying to screw Free software and people do notice, then respond
IN A prior post on the subject we explained that Microsoft managed to pull out of punishment for crimes that it had committed against rival Web browsers (Microsoft was found guilty). According to news sources (some more mainstream than others, e.g. [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]), this might be the end of it, but Glyn Moody refers to the part we wrote about last night, namely the part which is a threat to Free software.
[Y]ou can code away to your heart’s content without needing to worry about those nasty patents that Microsoft claims; but as soon as you or anyone else starts offering that code commercially, “You do not benefit from this promise for such distribution or for these other activities.”
Now, if memory serves me correctly, this is precisely the utterly useless promise that Microsoft offered previously when it came to its patent pledge for the open source community, so it’s shocking that somebody within the European Commission didn’t pick up on this weakness and ask for it to be changed. For, clearly, the current wording means that the patent pledge doesn’t apply to precisely those companies that are most of a threat to Microsoft.
The Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) has already responded, warning that “Free Software is excluded from interoperability.”
The European Commission is also investigating the way Microsoft prevents competitors from interfacing with many of its desktop productivity programs. Microsoft has offered a unilateral commitment. Yet these promises are useless for Free Software developers, since they exclude commercial use of Microsoft’s interoperability information.
Carlo Piana, FSFE’s legal counsel, says: “The patent commitments are clearly insufficient, because they don’t allow commercial exploitation. This keeps out competition from Free Software, which in many areas is the biggest competitor to Microsoft’s programs. Instead, Microsoft will continue to threaten commercial Free Software developers and their customers with patent FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt).”
The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is one of the 16 specialized agencies of the United Nations system of organisations. Its role is administrating 23 international treates dealing with different aspects of limited monopolies on knowledge.
According to its own web page, it is
“an international organization dedicated to promoting the use and protection of works of the human spirit. These works — intellectual property — are expanding the bounds of science and technology and enriching the world of the arts. Through its work, WIPO plays an important role in enhancing the quality and enjoyment of life, as well as creating real wealth for nations.”
As explained in articles such as “Fighting intellectual poverty” or “On ‘Intellectual Property’ and Indigenous Peoples” on FSFEs web page — as well as many others on the net — the statement above did not match reality in the past. The Geneva Declaration states clearly how in the past WIPO has had a history of “intellectually weak, ideologically rigid, and sometimes brutally unfair and inefficient policies.”
Despite obvious discrimination against Free software (the deal needs to be mended), a Microsoft-funded blog gives the source of discrimination (Brad Smith) a platform so that he gets to tell their own self-glorifying version of their story. CNET’s Microsoft PR puppet Ina Fried does the same thing with Smith. █